How to Jumpstart Your Yearly Intentions and Drown Out Negativity
Written By: Matt Mignona
At the beginning of the year, people tend to set goals and resolutions for the coming 12 months. This is great to do any time you see the need for a positive change in your life—not just at the start of a year, month, or week.
Recently, more people have started setting intentions for the year, either instead of or in addition to those goals and resolutions. Though all three of them sound almost the same, there are some key differences:
- Goal: This is a specific target you have set for yourself. It has a defined completion.
- Resolution: This is more of a habit-setting practice. A resolution is a decision to change the way you do things on an ongoing basis. You might resolve to drink a certain amount of water every day, for example. That's not a goal, because there's no deadline; it's not something you'll ever finish. Instead, you'll set a new habit of drinking that much water and you'll continue to do it throughout your life, or as long as it serves you.
- Intention: This is how you approach your goals, resolutions, and all other activities of daily life. It's a way of being.
You can see how these all work together: an intention helps shape your attitude about your resolutions, the practice of which contribute to your overall goals.
Intentions: A Closer Look
Setting an intention is about deciding how you want to show up in the world. It's the attitude with which you tackle challenges and celebrate joys; it shapes how people perceive you and how they'd offer an answer to, "What's your friend like?"
Intentions are powerful because they're simple. You can sum it up in one word or sentence, and it's easy for you to return to that on a moment-to-moment basis, asking yourself, "How do I approach this situation through the lens of my intention?" It can impact the way you complete tasks, manage time and deal with setbacks.
How to Set an Intention for Your Year
Since this single word or phrase will sum up how you approach your year, it's important to take some time and think about what you truly need to focus on. Here are a few tips to help you set an intention that works for you.
Recall Some Happy Moments
Think about an event you enjoyed, an accomplishment you're proud of, or a situation you handled well, even if it might have been difficult. Remember who was there and any specific details about it: the temperature, the lighting, the smells, what you were wearing, etc. Recreate it in your mind and experience the feelings of joy and accomplishment. Do this with a few different events and moments.
What made those moments so enjoyable? Sum it up in just a few words. Was it because of family and friends? Was it because you felt connected, productive, focused, or creative? Was it because someone else was showing you patience, generosity, or kindness?
Think About What You Want
How do you want to show up for other people? Where could you stand to improve? What do you want to attract more of in your life? These important questions serve as the basis for ultimately choosing your intention for the year.
Move toward what you want, rather than away from what you don't. Instead of choosing "less angry" or "lower stress" or "less time wasting" as your intention, say, "calm" or "productive."
Write It Down
Committing your intention to paper is powerful. Write it somewhere you'll see it every day to help you stay focused on it.
Use Your Intention to Drown Out Negativity
Your intention becomes a tool for daily use. At first, it might be difficult to remember to call upon it from moment to moment. That's okay—you'll get there! At the end of the day, take time to reflect on how your intention showed up in various circumstances.
For example, say your intention is a kindness. Before you go to sleep, write down three moments during the day when you practiced this intention. Think broadly: it's not only the time you held a door open for someone but also at any moment when you were kind to yourself, perhaps by choosing a healthy meal or thinking positive thoughts. Close your eyes and again focus on how that moment made you feel: recall the sights, sounds, and smells present in that moment. The sense of smell is especially tied to memory; if you were wearing a specific perfume/cologne or perhaps burning a scented candle during one of the moments you were living your intention, take a whiff of that again as you recreate the success in your mind. Use the scent to enhance your memory of the event.
No matter what else might have happened during the day, you can stay focused on those three successful moments of using your intention. Go to sleep with those at the front of your mind.
When you wake up, pick up your journal again: now it's time to set goals for the day, and you can use your intention to shape those goals. If you have a meeting or an appointment, write down how you want to approach it. If you know you'll be dealing with a difficult person, take note of how your intention will help you do so in a positive, productive way. Think of an extra little goal you can set that will help you practice your intention. Here are a few sample intentions with a possible goal for the day to go with it:
- Happiness: Spend 10 minutes watching puppy videos or stand-up comedy.
- Kindness: Pay for a meal for the person behind you in line.
- Creativity: Read a poem or spend 10 minutes browsing artwork online.
- Wisdom: Read a chapter in a philosophy book.
- Generosity: Donate (any amount) to a GoFundMe campaign.
- Calm: Set aside five minutes to sit still and take deep breaths.
- Gratitude: Write down three things you're thankful for.
- Connection: Make a coffee date with someone you haven't seen in a while to strengthen your relationship.
- Presence: Put your phone down and truly listen when someone (a friend or a stranger) tells you a story or asks you a question.
- Focus: Close all browser windows except the one you're working on, or read a full chapter in your book before you get up to go to the bathroom, get a snack, or check social media.
- Health: Complete your scheduled workout.
- Self-Love: Write down five things you do well.
- Patience: Stand in the first check-out line you come to, rather than debating about which one will go the fastest, and focus on deep breathing while you wait in line.
These goals are small enough that you can accomplish them without a lot of extra time or energy, but you'll still garner the sense of accomplishment from getting it done and crossing it off your list. That always feels good! Not only that, it will reinforce your intention and your own belief that you are the type of person you want to be.
The more you practice, write, and reflect, the more your intention will work its way naturally into your life. Before long, that intention will take hold, and you'll embody that way of being: kind, creative, generous, connected, focused, healthy, or whatever the case may be for you. Intentions help you become the positive person you want to be, a person who has the strength and determination to accomplish any goals you set for yourself.